San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge at night. Now imagine it without the lights.
On March 29, inhabitants and businesses in around 380 cities—including
—turned off their lights for at least an hour. At 8 p.m. wherever they were, various households, businesses, and governments were urged to flick the switch and to return temporarily to candlelight in order to reduce emissions caused by coal-generated electricity. Over 290,000 people and over 24,000 businesses signed up to participate in Earth Hour 2008, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-sponsored global movement that began last year in Sydney, Australia, when two million residents cut energy usage for that hour at about 10%. Kicking off this year’s campaign in
, where it was also an event featuring candle-lit dinners and Aborigine performances on the beach, Earth Hour 2008 aimed to highlight the connection between energy usage and climate change and, organizers said, to show that communities indeed care about the planet. Even Google temporarily turned its ordinarily white background to black.
Critics, though, have dismissed Earth Hour as a “gimmick,” an event that gave vendors an excuse to hawk “green” products and consumers an excuse to do business-as-usual, except by the light of a candle rather than that of a bulb. Even WWF head Carter Roberts said that the energy saved by turning off the lights for an hour would be negligible, and Dublin’s banks and brokerages stayed brightly lit throughout Earth Hour, despite the city’s pledge of participation (most other Dubliners and many other Irish took part, however). Yet, if Roberts acknowledges that the direct effects of the event on energy usage are small, then the main point of it isn’t just to directly reduce energy usage. It’s also to raise awareness—whether by media coverage or simply word of mouth—not only on a grassroots level but on a governmental level as well.
Do you, readers, think that the image of a dark
or Sydney Opera House is sufficient to turn lawmakers’ focus toward designing policies to promote renewable energy adoption/investment and reducing emissions? Or do you think that an ordinary consumer just "raising awareness" is insufficient at this point?